After being closed for over seven weeks due to construction-related damage, a vital European north-south train link is back on track. But the full economic consequences are still being tallied.
Shortly after midnight the first train again rolled through Rastatt, a tiny town west of Stuttgart. It was here on August 12 that construction work on a tunnel for the European high-speed rail network caused the tracks above to slightly cave in. Since then this important section of railroad had been closed, impacting 120 passenger trains as well as up to 200 freight trains a day.
The north-south rail link is essential for the entire European rail network. Each day during construction around 30,000 travelers and commuters had to switch to busses to get around the construction site. Many trains were simply cancelled.
But now everything should be back to normal. Authorities expect most passenger and freight trains to already start running this Monday as previously scheduled.
The Rhine Valley railway (Rheintalbahn) route, showing where the line was interrupted for seven weeks
Track and reputational damage
During the past weeks, as the freight traffic between Rotterdam and Genoa backed up, only part of it could be diverted through on different routes or put onto trucks to be transported. Freight companies complained of additional costs and a loss of business. Some companies are looking at claims for damages.
There has also been sharp criticism of Deutsche Bahn, the operator of the line, from all sides. Politicians have complained that the company did not properly manage risks and did not have a back-up plan if something happened during construction.
At this point, Deutsche Bahn has not been able to calculate the overall costs of the closure, the unavoidable redesign and the new construction necessary. Arbitration proceedings are taking place between the German rail operator and the construction companies involved.